Match point between Djokovic and Federer vs. Sock and Anderson:
CHICAGO—Though the Laver Cup winner is far from decided, one fact is already crystal clear: the event is overflowing with prestige and coolness. From the color of the court to the bow ties and the light shows, every detail plays a part.
The unique team event is contradictory as it toes the line between wide-open access and closed-door exclusivity, while also somehow being both exhibition fun and tournament final seriousness. Call it what you want—the Laver Cup is working.
"I have been pleasantly surprised the way everything has been set up, the whole tournament, the whole days leading up to the matches," Grigor Dimitrov said. "Obviously we have done a lot in the past days, like with the galas and putting on suits and taking pictures and all that. But I love that part of it. We don't get a chance to do something so special."
The hype for the exhibition started with a welcome ceremony at Millennium Park offering free entry, but the United Center was on lockdown until Friday. Practices inside the arena are private, while fans are allowed to press up against the glass walls on the practice court outside. Team press conference were live-streamed on Thursday, but then the black-tie opening night gala was exclusive invite only.
The Laver Cup ups the cool factor with an all-black court, black and white detailing everywhere, neon lighting and courtside leather couches for team members to lounge on. The star power helps too, with those couches filled by the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios.
The matches have lived up to the hype with the crowds pouring in even in the middle of a work day. Play kicked off on Friday afternoon in a nearly-full stadium with Team World's Frances Tiafoe falling to world No. 7 Dimitrov. The fact that Tiafoe was willing to fly straight from a heartbreaking Davis Cup loss in Croatia to replace Juan Martin del Potro just days before jetting to Asia speaks dividends.
"You got the call, you got to come. Great fellowship seeing all the guys," Tiafoe said. "There's not a better week than this one."
Dimitrov scores first point for Team Europe against Tiafoe:
Kyle Edmund improved Team Europe's lead to 2-0 with a deciding tiebreak win over Jack Sock. In his on-court interview, Edmund said playing in a stadium like the United Center is a once in lifetime opportunity. His sentiments were echoed by men on both teams.
"I think the experience I get from here is something I'll always remember and hopefully benefit me as a tennis player," Edmund said. "I just want to get out there and play in that amazing sort of spectacle."
Team Europe then improved to 3-0 with David Goffin squeaking out a victory over Diego Schwarztman. The arena was itching for doubles drama and they got it. Home of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls, the United Center is used to sporting spectacles.
Sock suits up in Chicago jerseys twice on Day 1 at Laver Cup:
That doubles match featured Sock and Kevin Anderson against Djokovic and Federer in, arguably, the most anticipated doubles match since Federer suited up with Rafael Nadal last year. Everyone wanted to be there to witness two of the best singles players on the planet join forces. Sock and Anderson would pull off the "upset" by a dramatic 6-7 (5), 6-3, 10-6 scoreline, closing the gap with Team Europe to 3-1.
Exhibition or not, the message has been delivered: Laver Cup is a cool kids club that fans and players alike want to be invited to.